Where we ate:
Mandarin Palace, High Street, Hornchurch
A fortnight or so ago, I celebrated my birthday with those closest to me and we chose the Mandarin Palace in Hornchurch – a real family favourite; we’ve been going there years. Amidst the low entrances and dated decor, this former coaching inn is a real gem. In all the years we have been dining there, I can’t recall a bad meal. Plus they serve a homemade chilli oil (which is more of a salad), which my dad absolutely loves; it’s well worth the £2.50 supplement. On arrival we snacked on complimentary prawn crackers and when we left, we took advantage of the traffic light lollypops.
What we ate:
- To start:
Mixed hors d'oeuvre (chicken satay, spare ribs, spring rolls, tempura prawns and crispy seaweed)
- To follow:
½ aromatic crispy duck
- Main courses:
Fillet steak Cantonese style
Chicken in black bean sauce
Mixed seafood chow mein
Beef chow mein
Special fried rice
Although there were five of us, we got the mixed platter for four as a little taster before going on to the duck course. The best thing about sharing is that there’s something for everyone – even if you don’t like everything, there’s something to choose to sample more of. The ribs were probably my favourite – unlike typical Chinese ribs, these were mini and not at all fatty, with plenty of meat to be had. I absolutely love crispy seaweed as well, but there’s never enough! What is that powdery sugar-like substance on the top as well? It’s amazing!
Like I said, we followed the starters up with a course of crispy aromatic duck. We opted for the quarter, which worked out to two pancakes each (a couple of lucky people had three!) – which was plenty. The waiters bring the duck to the table, shredding it in front of you. Watching them is a real treat and it’s clear years of practice has helped them master the art. For me, the cucumber and onions have to go on first, before the duck and then a liberal drizzle of hoisin sauce – I’m definitely not a spreader; it’s not a pizza.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t even full when the main courses arrived. We always order seafood noodles as it’s something we can’t get from the local takeaway and it’s so different. I love the mixture of squid and scallops and the noodles are always so fresh. I always choose the same dish – fillet steak Cantonese style. It arrives sizzling on a hot place and is just divine – I’ve always wondered how they make the sauce, it’s quite rich and sweet; I love it!
For dessert (yep, more food!) I ordered the toffee apple, which unlike me, I struggled to eat. It was a tough call between that and the fritters.
The service slightly let the evening down somewhat. Some of the waiters seemed so miserable and were keen to get you out the door. But I had a lovely meal like usual and it was nice to finally celebrate with my loved ones.